Project Avalon

Written by:
Terry Nation
Directed by: Michael E. Briant
Episode Length: 52'27
Original UK Transmission Date: 27/1/1978
Original UK Ratings: 9.7m
Original UK Chart Position: 36

DVD Availability: Try or Amazon

Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), David Jackson (Gan) and Peter Tuddenham (Zen).

Guest-Starring: Stephen Greif (Travis), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Julia Vidver (Avalon), David Bailie (Chevner), Glynis Barber (Mutoid), John Baker (Scientist), John Rolfe (Terloc) and David Sterne/Mark Holmes (Guards).

Crew: Victor Mallett (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Ian Scoones/Mat Irvine (Visual Effects Designers), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Ken Willicombe (Film Cameraman), John Gatland (Film Recordists), David Martin (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Tony Millier (Studio Sound), Richard Yeoman-Clark (Special Sound), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Barbara Lane/Rupert Jarvis (Costume Designers), Marianne Ford (Make Up Artist), Bob Blagden (Graphics Designer), Dudley Simpson (Music), Frank Maher/Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-Ordinators), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Chris Pemsel (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: A novel by Trevor Hoyle using elements of this episode as well as Seek-Locate-Destroy, Duel, Orac and Deliverance was released under the title "Project Avalon".

Glynis Barber, a regular in season four as Soolin, here plays a Mutoid.

Story: Blake has arranged to rendezvous with a resistance leader known as Avalon (whom Jenna had also met on one previous occasion). However, she is kidnapped by Travis and placed in security hold F2, while her band is murdered.
Blake, Jenna, Vila and some survivors of Avalon's group break into Travis's base via duct 827/04. The Federation guards allow the crew to escape with Avalon, only for them to find out she's really a programmed android there to release a deadly virus on the Liberator. Realising in time, they teleport back down with Avon having reprogrammed the robot to crush the sphere containing the virus if Servalan attempts to stop their exit.

The Federation: There have been two attempts on Servalan's life since Seek-Locate-Destroy. There has also been some administrative criticism of Travis's unsuccessful campaign to destroy Blake. After his failure in this mission, he is relieved of duty by Servalan, pending a full enquiry.

Cells: Other prisoners being held at the base include: A12 - Istar, S8 - Bend, T5 - Kalor, N15 - Baker and G3 - Pelar.

Virus: The virus comes under the Delta 706 classification, subset 275. It is an artificially created mutation from what was originally known incorrectly as the Phobon Plague. It has a lifespan of 23 seconds, and is self-eliminating.

"I think I shall contain my enthusiasm."

It surprises me that Project Avalon was chosen as one of the episodes to be novelised. Maybe it looked better on paper, because on screen it's one of the more irritating first season episodes. This is where Blake's 7 first shows signs of changing from would-be serious SF saga to camp near-parody. Jacqueline Pearce, quite restrained in her debut appearance, here seems to believe her raison de etre is to be a gay icon. Even Liza Minelli isn't this kitsch. I've nothing against camp in principle - it just doesn't work for Blake's 7, that's all. And when Stephen Greif follows suit and minces all over the shop it threatens to self-destruct. But then the kinky dominatrixes that are the Mutoids also crush any sense of credibility. Surely it would lead to more dramatic tension, and a less frivolous element, if Travis had regular Federation stormtroopers?

Sally Knyvette gets a larger role here after whinging to producers about her sidelined Jenna. My favourite, Michael Keating, seems bored and unapplied, probably due to him only getting fifteen lines throughout the entire episode. Even the crap Jeremy robot makes another appearance, thankfully the final time it was used. When it fires that flame-thrower of his, it just looks like he's having a particularly fiery wizz.

Those not into the all-too-self-aware playing do at least get the thrill of seeing Julia Vidler in a tinfoil bikini. Very nice, though it's a shame she can't act. Yet throughout the whole of this story you get the feeling of tongues not just being in a cheek, but practically breaking the sides of the actors' faces. Thank God for Grief's fellow RSC cohort, Gareth Thomas, who again gives us his usual gravitas.

Yet despite my moaning all the way through this review, Project Avalon is very, very watchable. In fact, despite being pure cheese, I did nearly award it an extra mark: